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Apparently with no surprise

Apparently with no surprise


by Emily Dickinson

Apparently with no surprise Introduction

In A Nutshell

Let's see… What do most people know about Emily Dickinson?

  • She never married… true. 
  • She lived alone in her house in Amherst, Mass… true. 
  • She mostly wore white… true. 
  • She was an expert in judo and secretly fought crime… unconfirmed. 
  • She wrote around 1775 of the greatest American poems ever… totally and completely true.

While the people in her hood probably thought she was just that weird spinster down the block, Emily was actually quietly accumulating a massive body of awesome work. Along with other greats like Walt Whitman, Emily is widely thought of as being one of the first poets to have a truly American voice. Not only did she rebel in her personal life by never getting married and making babies, she also rebelled on the page. She said, "What's up with all these Old World meters and rhyme schemes? Let's shake it up and have some real fun."

With "Apparently with no surprise" Emily picks up one of her favorite themes: death. Yeah, kind of dark, but some biographers say that she had particularly good reason to be writing about the D-word when she wrote this poem. Some say that this one popped out of her brilliant mind in the 1880's not long after she'd gone through a string of deaths in her life.

There was her mom, her dad, her cute little nephew, several close friends, and Otis Phillips Lord (the closest thing to a BF she ever had). Yup, seems like she had good reason to dwell on death a bit. In fact, this poem was written not long before her own death in 1886. Ooh, spooky.

Emily lives on, though. Her first big collection, Poems, was published in 1890, and it included "Apparently with no surprise." So you could say that her thoughts on death were so profound that in some ways they helped her overcome it and made her a poet of the distinctly immortal variety.

Take that, mortality. Nobody's gonna keep Em down.


Why Should I Care?


It's just not a fun word. We kind of don't even want to look at it.

Oh, but we can't help ourselves. Call us morbidly curious, but here it comes again…


We feel a little better about it this time. Which is a good thing because there's no person on this Earth who'll never have to deal with the D-word (unless you've figured out the secret, Shmooper). Our goldfish, our grandmas, our parents, our friends—sooner or later they're all gonna die. Then, of course, comes the biggest joke of all: we're gonna die, too. Hurray?

Now, some people think it's a good idea to pretend like none of this is true. They'd just as soon skip through life popping bubble gum while doing their best to ignore the fact the death is all around them. These types would not get along with Emily Dickinson. We wonder what would happen if one of these death-deniers skipped into Dickinson's house, and Emily decided to do a reading a little reading of "Apparently with no surprise." (Not that Emily would ever have read a poem aloud to anybody, but go with us here.)

We imagine that the conversation after the reading between Emily and the skipping death-denier (hereafter referred to as Skipper) would go like this...

Skipper: Um, that was weird.

Emily: What could be weird about it?

Skipper: It was just sad and stuff.

Emily: Why shouldn't we think about sad things?

Skipper: Because they're sad.

Emily: Death is a part of life. Isn't it cowardly to pretend like it's not?

Skipper (skipping out the door): Now I see why you live alone!

Emily: (calling after her): But I made gingerbread!

Man, that Skipper is kind of rude. Anyway, isn't Emily right on this one? Why should we care about a poem about death? Because it's a part of all our lives. Simple as that.

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